Colorado’s newest scenic and historic byway is open to travelers, and like all great things in life, the journey starts from Durango.
The 125-mile Tracks Across Borders Byway is a guaranteed road trip favorite. Connecting our beloved Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad to the historic Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad in New Mexico, the road offers an unrivaled chance to experience thousands of years worth of Southwestern history.
The adventure will take you through two states and two Indian reservations, passing by frontier ghost towns, ancient mission buildings, three state parks, one national monument and several recreation areas along the way.
Railfans, history buffs, outdoor lovers and adventurers alike, get ready to fill every window of your car with panoramic views of iconic mesas, winding rivers and rugged mountain peaks. Expect the splendor of the Million Dollar Highway, minus the white-knuckled driving and hairpin turns.
The Perfect Road Trip
The journey from Durango to Chama, New Mexico, takes roughly 4 to 5 hours if you drive straight through. But if you aren’t short on time, you could take several days to properly explore each destination.
From Durango to Ignacio
To get yourself in the proper mood for a train-to-train road trip, hop onboard the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad from Durango for a trip to Silverton. We recommend riding the train one way and taking the bus back, to get the best of both views. When you return, take some time to stroll the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Museum, a great educational resource that the whole family can enjoy.
From Durango, the road to Ignacio is roughly thirty minutes. Here, you’ll get your first glimpse of the Southern Ute Indian reservation, where you’ll find the Southern Ute Cultural Center and Museum, Fox Fire Farms Winery, and KD’s Caffe Latte, a cafe where you must snag a breakfast burrito.
Even if you’re traveling with kids, the Sky Ute Casino and Resort, with its 45,000 ft. Gaming Floor, bowling alley, cafe, bingo hall, mini golf center, gym and arcade can offer at least a few hours of entertainment.
From Ignacio to Arboles, CO
As you leave the modern comforts of Durango and Ignacio, take time to appreciate the scenery. The road along Highway 151 will pass by the two tiny, unincorporated communities of Allison, Colorado, and Tiffany, Colorado. They were established in 1904 and 1907, respectively. Tiffany, named after pioneer settler Ed Tiffany closed in 1954. Allison, named after surveyor Allison Stocker, shut down in 1954.
Reaching Arboles, Colorado, will be the signifier that ancient ruins are just around the corner. Chimney Rock National Monument, open May 15th to September 30th, is just twenty minutes away, where over one thousand years of history has been remarkably preserved for you to explore. You’ll need to join a tour to take the well-worth-it trip to the mesa top. At 7,000 feet in elevation, Chimney Rock is the highest of all Chacoan sites. If you enjoyed Mesa Verde, you’ll love the perspective offered at this 7 square mile preserve.
From Arboles to Pagosa Springs*
Pagosa Springs is not an official stop on the scenic byway, but if you have the time, it’s definitely worth the pause in your tour, especially since it’s only 20 miles from Chimney Rock National Monument. With its heavenly natural hot springs and waterfall trails, Pagosa Springs has the power to refresh even the weariest of travelers. There are also numurous lodging, restaurants and breweries to recharge your batteries.
From Pagosa Springs to the Colorado-New Mexico border
Traveling back for a second view of Chimney Rock, you’ll make your way to the state lines and the town of Dulce beyond that. But before, make a point to appreciate the change of scenery at Navajo State Park near Arboles. The 15,000 surface-acre reservoir is a great spot to stretch your legs, picnic, hike, fish, bike, or just enjoy the quiet. There are several great RV campsites near the water where you can enjoy a private view of the desert buttes and azul waters. Known colloquially as “Colorado’s answer to Lake Powell,” we’ll let the views speak for themselves.
When you decide to leave, the Tracks Across Borders Byway continues on along the Trujillo Road, which bends and winds to the pace set by the San Juan River. On your left, Colorado. On your right, New Mexico. You’ll pass Carracas Canyon, the peak of Monte Camado, Montezuma Mesa, Archuleta Mesa, as well as abandoned missions and towns.
From the state border to Chama, NM
The town of Dulce isn’t far after crossing the state border. Beyond that, the Jicarilla Apache Nation Reservation, Heron Lake State Park, and El Vado Lake State Park are close in sight. Similar to the beginning of your journey in Durango, in Chama you’ll find new opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, exploring museums, fishing, and even riding along the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. Juanita to Dulce is rough and might be most appropriate for travel during dry weather with a high-clearance vehicle.
Largely an undiscovered corner of our nation’s history and new to Colorado’s list of scenic byways, expect this roadtrip to be unforgettably intimate and special.